Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

A human who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

La Tomatina

Oh, La Tomatina.

When the ever so popular question arises and I have to rack my memory to choose ONE thing I did throughout my entire 6 months in Europe that I felt was the most fun... this is what my brain comes up with. The struggle getting there was real and the benefit I reaped from it was more than I could have imagined.

I planned on going to the festival with my friend Mike, who I've spent time with earlier in the summer. HE was supposed to book the tickets and some how I still ended up with my nose in my phone the only night I spent in Paris trying to get through the ridiculous spaintastic website. It was a nightmare getting the tickets. The website wasn't working and when I finally got my payment to go through they NEVER sent me the link for the tickets.

So I called the company and explain. They understood, but somehow the package I wanted was sold out and had to get a more expensive one. Fine, I'll pay it. They never emailed me back.

Mike let me know the day before that he wasn't able to come because of work. I was so lucky to have met adorable Canadian girls at the hostel I was staying at in Paris that were going to be at La Tomatina too. They offered me a place to crash if I needed it, and I needed it hard. Lucky that opportunity fell into my lap!

They had purchased tickets through a different tour company and were able to communicate with their group prior to the festival. They all arranged to meet up on the beach the night before for dinner and drinks and lots of phone stealing fun. I got a little drunk, maybe. And let my phone a little unattended on a beach. Maybe. But my purse got stolen from under my nose.

Luckily before I left the hotel I separated some of my cash and left my credit card and passport at the hotel. One of those times that I used my head. It's always good to have stashes and backups in case crisis strikes. You also have to stay clam. I could have easily freaked out. My phone has everything. It WAS my everything - as far as traveling was concerned. It had very important information inside of it. And pictures. And email confirmations 0_0

I paid for a ticket that I never received and had nothing to prove it, yet I was in Valencia with more willpower to get to those damn tomato-filled streets than anywhere in the world. I wandered over to the pickup point for the tour at dusk, keeping my fingers crossed that my name would be somewhere. That SOMEONE would know I had the damn right to get on that bus.

There weren't many people there yet. I sat alone but chatted with everyone and eventually paired up with a cute group of young Australian girls (they are ALL over Europe). I explained my situation and we all made it a point to get me on that bus, regardless.

I explained my situation to a few of the tour guides. I checked all the list and my name wasn't on any of them, so I started making goody goody with the guide who was leading the group the new friends I made were in. She eventually agreed to let me on the bus and we would get everything sorted when we got there. I eventually got her to agree to a lot of things :)

She was flustered. It seemed the company was very unorganized, and she didn't have time to get meal tickets and locker tags and all the information we needed out. Volunteering to aid her was an obvious first step into getting into this festival. We chatted when we got off the bus, I helped her while she rolled a cigarette. It was chaos when we got to the lockers, and it was obvious she didn't want to deal with me. She had me write down my email and attached a wristband to me.

I. Was. In.

I'll skip right to the after photos.

Hundreds of us were hurdled in the small streets of Buñol. The houses on either side of us were covered with tarps. The residents lingered over us playing music and pouring water and wine all over us. As we waited it started to rain, and we started to sing. You could sense the anticipation in the air. We were ready.

The first truck rolled through. There were people standing in the truck tossing tomatoes at us in the streets. We frantically reached down to grab what tomatoes we could so that we could participate too. There weren't enough to go around. Not until the second truck came. 

The back of the truck stopped right at me feet, and within seconds the massive vehicle dumped thousands of tomatoes right at me feet. I was in heaven. Everyone was throwing tomatoes at everyone. Within 5 minutes I was covered in sauce. I was dodging tomatoes like a ninja and tossing them like crazy. HEAD SHOT! My signature move made me a lot of friends. I'd grab the collar of an unsuspecting victims shirt, pull it open and smash tomatoes into their back. This would typically start a war, and we would battle for the next few minutes until we got distracted by everyone else's battles. I felt like a kid, the happiest of kids.

This lasted for the next 50 minutes. I lost my Australian friends in the midst of it all. I wasn't bothered. Everyone was my friend. I pulled my signature move on, "the wrong guys", and they proceded to grab me by my arms and legs, toss me into the soup which filled the streets, and kick up a whirlwind of tomatoes. Perfect way to end the festivities.

The locals of Buñol were kind enough to spend their afternoon hosing off the fighters when the lines for the showers were too long. I waited patiently to get clean with new friends who were on the same bus as me. They brought a unicorn head to the party, and they enjoyed how small I was. We made a great team the rest of the day, which involved beer and sangria and PALLEA. Which my beautiful tour guide hooked me up with. Estella was her name, and making me happy was her game. 

A few days prior to the event I was riding around on a motorbike in the Spanish countryside with my Couchsurfing friend. You can read more HERE. In the attempt to get an awesome picture I burned myself on the exhaust. After being saturated in tomato juice for an hour, my wound was broken open while riding a unicorn. Just my luck, that damn thing got nasty infected. I still have a scar, and everytime I look a it, I smile.

I can't begin to explain how thankful I am that I was able to experience this. When it seemed like nothing was going my way, I persisted and kept a damn smile plastered on my face. Sometimes it astounds me how lucky I am. And for that, I am forever and always thankful! 

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